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Djokovic Serves Up Shorter Motion

Novak Djokovic is aiming to diminish stress on his cranky elbow by shortening up his service motion.

Rather than lower the racquet in a traditional full loop backswing, Djokovic now raises the racquet up in an abbreviated backswing.

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The 30-year-old Serbian has not played an official tournament match since chronic elbow pain forced him to pull the plug on his 2017 season with a Wimbledon quarterfinal retirement.

The six-time Australian Open champion delivered his shorter service motion during this week's Tie Break Tens exhibition in Melbourne.

While Djokovic has been wearing kinesiology tape on the back of his arm during Melbourne Park practice sessions this week, he's optimistic the shorter service motion will help him protect both his elbow and service games.

"It was a fantastic test for me to see what we have done as a team in the off-season, whether it works or not on the court," Djokovic told The Times. "It works pretty well, especially the serve. That was the biggest question mark.

"Because of the elbow, that shot in my game was compromised prior to Wimbledon in July when I had to stop. Every time I needed a big serve, I had it. Now I know how it feels for the big servers to come out with the big serves in the important moments."

How will the serve stand up to the rigors of best-of-five matches at the Australian Open?

Former U.S. Davis Cup captain and ESPN analyst Patrick McEnroe says that remains to be seen.

"Obviously you don't want to go into your first tournament, first of all being a major. Second of all, you don't want to go into it with a brand-new stroke of any kind," McEnroe told the media in a conference call to promote ESPN2's Australian Open coverage starting Sunday at 7 p.m. Eastern time. "We'll have to see how it looks in match play, number one.

"He has tinkered with his serve quite a bit over the years. If you remember a number of years ago, he had some sort of serving yips when he was still No. 3 in the world. He was able to iron them out, take over No. 1. If there's anybody that can tinker with it, probably be successful, it would be him. More important than that I think for Djokovic is just the overall health of that arm and the elbow going forward. We're not going to know that, I don't think he's going to know that, until he gets out there in competition."

Djokovic has experimented with the abbreviated service motion in the past, including back in 2010 when he was working with coach Todd Martin before the pair split in March of 2010.

Here's a look at the former No. 1's prior service motion featuring the full backswing in both practice and match play.

Photo credit: Miami Open